Get To Know: Reji
12 March 2013
Talking to Reji about his music career, you can’t really help but get excited. He loves this shit so fucking much. His enthusiasm is just about as infectious as his genre hopping sets.
Reji is an accidental DJ. Far from aspiring to rock Bombay crowds, a younger Reji, fascinated by acoustics and speaker making, fell into his role as one of Bombay’s most active selectors when other plans didn’t work out:
“[DJing] started as a fluke more or less… I tried to pursue an electronics degree, and I didn’t get admission in the university that I wanted. I was very disappointed and I was a very young, angry teenager, so I just dropped out of college. At that time, there was one particular gentleman in Colaba who was teaching the only DJing course back then. It was the time when there was no Internet, no anything like that. I went and gave it a shot.”
To hear Reji tell it, things took off fast. “I was more or less ready for music at that point, I guess. I was just picking up and soaking up things quickly. I was getting good and I was just totally in love with music. So it settled quite a lot of things for me. This was back in 98. Since then, I’ve been in this profession.”
These days, Reji’s sonic palette is… well, everything. As is the case for many of our favourite DJs, Reji refuses to be pigeonholed. If you have anything to do with electronic music and parties in India, you’ve probably heard about his truly epic set at last month’s Grime Riot Disco. From old school hip-hop edits to Fatboy Slim, the always crowd pleasing I Want To Fuck You In The Ass, and Blur’s Song 2, Reji really doesn’t give a fuck about conforming to your expectations of genre consistency.
But it wasn’t always like that. Five years ago, Reji was a progressive house DJ. We knew we had Zenzi and BBC’s Kris Correya to thank in some way for much of the interesting music that’s come out of Bombay in the past half decade. We didn’t realise how deep it went. In Reji’s full quote, which is way too long for this post, he says no less than three times “I really wanted to play at Zenzi.” In 2008 in Bombay, Zenzi was a magical place, and that’s a sentiment we can fully understand.
“Kris Correya”, Reji told us, “is a very old and very good friend of mine. I would hold him responsible for my whole change of taste. I would go and pressure him every now and then; ‘Hey Kris, come on you, have to give me a gig’ and he would ask me ‘What are you going to play?’ I would say ‘I’m gonna play some progressive house, I’m gonna play some techno’, and he was would say, ‘No no, no way, fuck off.’
“He would tell me, ‘You’re a turntablist and you can scratch, so why don’t you go ahead and play something else.’ And I really needed to play at Zenzi real bad, so around 2009 he gave me a night at Zenzi Mills… I used one turntable and was just layering with scratches and effects stuff. So that was it. The first night at Zenzi Mills, a night called Stylus, and the response was so great that after that I did a Stylus party every month at Zenzi Mills for more than a year and a half.”
As Reji refined his style, he opened up and explored the world of sounds that make asses shake, eventually leading to a long running Rejidency at Bonobo.
“The kind of music which I’m playing right now… [isn’t] defined by a genre or anything like that. I want to keep it as diverse and eclectic as possible. I’m listening to anything and everything… I want to put an emphasis on quality music regardless of type… “[Y]ou might have heard me playing The Rapture … or Blur. Those are old tracks, but you don’t hear DJs weaving them into their sets right now.
“…[T]here’s no tempo or genre that I’m bound by. It makes listening to music a full time job now more than ever, because music is coming in and I’m just listening. … Anything and everything goes right now."
The first piece of vinyl/music you bought with your own money?
A mix CD by Fatboy Slim called On the Floor at the Boutique. [WC: A live Fatboy set from the Brighton club Big Beat Boutique] The funniest bit was … [that] I didn’t even have a CD player, but I went out and bought the CD so I could listen to it at a friend’s place.
The best set you’ve ever played?
There have been many. February's set at Grime Riot Disco was quite something. The crowd was ready for it and I was just rearing to go because my gig at Grime Riot Disco was supposed to happen at November 2011 and it got postponed. There was some kind of energy building up until last Friday and I gave it all out and the crowd accepted it. That was the best gig at the moment.
Otherwise I really enjoyed opening up for MIDIval Punditz at Sunburn last year.
The one song you’d want to listen to while you were blasting off into outer space?
Fatboy Slim – Bird Of Prey
The best album for making love?
Sade – Lovers Rock [WC: Fuck yes]
One track that’s a guaranteed dancefloor filler for any crowd?
It’s interesting, because it’s a very old track that I stumbled across last week. The Spank Rock remix of Bump by Switch [WC: It’s actually the Switch remix of Spank Rock]. I used to play it years ago and weave it into my progressive house sets because it’s quite a unique prototype kind of track on its own. I think the energy and whole attitude that the track brings makes it work anytime.
That’s one of the tracks that I’ve rediscovered.
Your favourite book?
The Celestine Prophesy by James Redfield
Your worst/most embarrassing DJ experience?
I don’t know… there was definitely some kind of experience I had last October or November… usually when you’re DJing and you have the crowd in front of you it’s a good thing when the crowd is actually enjoying your set. But in Bangalore what happened is that I was playing for Hennesy Artistry and I was DJing for Delhi Sultanate and Samara and this was one of those moments when I really needed to go to the loo bad. And believe me, it may sound as stupid as this, but this was quite a painful experience. If you see the videos of the event, when I started out I was all acrobatic, yeah yeah yeah, but by the end of the set, I was like, okay, this needs to end… I just want to get to the washroom.
But I wouldn’t say that was the worst experience. The worst experience… any time and every time is when an agent or a promoter has booked me into a spot without any research into the kind of music I’m playing. Because the kind of music I play doesn't fall directly into the electronic category, or into the top 40 gigs. I lot of times, people mistake me for a retro DJ, but I’m not playing that role. I hope they understand that.
Your favourite city to spin in?
There’s something about Pune. I’ve been going there for about ten years now, and every time that I’ve gone I sense a different kind of energy. In Bombay everyone is spoiled silly. For sure. They just take things for granted... What I mean to say is that it’s eventually going to morph into whatever style and trend Bombay brings in, but it’s a city that doesn’t go late, just 12:30 or so, it’s like Bangalore more or less, but it always has a promise for me. Whenever I go to Pune, whether it’s High Spirits or any other place, there’s always something in the air that makes me excited to play.
As for Delhi, I don’t know. We’ll find out soon enough.
An artist or producer whom you admire or respect, but rarely feel compelled to listen to?
There are quite a lot from the local scene. I really like the kind of work Sandunes (listen to her Wild City mix here) is doing at the moment. She’s the only one with that's got the whole future-garage-UK-bass kind of sound going on at the moment. It’s not a genre or style that I see anybody else trying to play. But she has it going on and she’s producing music and she’s performing it live. I really like that. … But it’s not the kind of music that I go home and listen to. I do respect her a lot and the kind of work that she’s doing.
At the same time there’s my good friend Sickflip, who’s Sarvesh [Srivastava] from Mental Martians (listen to their Wild City mix here). He makes a lot of interesting glitch-hop. Now, he’s a young boy, I remember when he used to come to my parties back in 2008 or 2009. So it’s very interesting that he’s evolved into dubstep and drum and bass. He has an interesting side project called Sickflip (listen to his Wild City mix here), which is a lot of glitch-hop and really stripped down tracks with guitars. I really like it. It’s a great direction that he’s going in. But again, it’s not something that I go home and listen to.
The effect of zero gravity on the downbeat?
I guess it would just fall on the second beat.
**Reji will be playing in Delhi at Cocaine on 16 March, and at T.L.R on 23 March. You can hear his famed GRD set here.**
Words: Kerry Harwin
Image Credit: Iza Viola